In 2003, Mr Howard’s decision to send Australian troops to join the US-led invasion of Iraq provoked widespread public opposition.
He claimed the war would make Australia less likely to suffer a terrorist attack – his opponents believed it would make the country a target.
Mr Howard has been unflinching in his support for the war – about 1,600 military personnel in and around Iraq…
Opinion polls over the past four years have fluctuated – with Mr Howard’s stance often the more popular.
But his case was not helped earlier this year when a senior cabinet member said oil was a major reason for Australia’s involvement – something the US has gone to great lengths to deny.
Most of the criticism of his foreign policy has focused on what critics have portrayed as his slavish devotion to the US.
Labor argue that there was never a strong enough case for going to war in Iraq
. Mr Rudd has described the decision as the "single greatest error of Australian national security and foreign policy decision-making since Vietnam".
He has promised to initiate a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and claims the Howard government is "making it up as it goes along".
However, Iraq is unlikely to be the main focus of voters’ concerns – perhaps because no Australian soldier has been killed as a result of enemy action…
Australia is a predominantly Christian country, with more than five million people identifying themselves as Catholic and four million as Anglican. Both Mr Howard and Mr Rudd are practising Christians.
The Christian vote is influential, but Australia does not have the sort of hugely influential Christian lobby that has had such an impact on American politics…
Commentaar: Deze PM zal waarschijnlijk ook kritischer staan t.a.v. de NAVO/ISAF-missie in Afghanistan. Deze missie valt immers niet los te zien van de catastrofaal-contraproductieve invasie van Irak en de heilloze Global War on Terror.